Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Part-time wise man


Wisdom doesn't necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up all by itself. – Tom Wilson

I should be wise by now, at my age – beginning to be at least. But I'm not. Not especially. I have my moments. Wisdom is a by-product of a good memory. As Aeschylus said, “Memory is the mother of all wisdom.” If you can't remember stuff it's hard to be wise. I am intelligent, I'll own up to that and I can, on occasion, follow fairly deep lines of thought, but I can't retain them ergo it's hard to be wise for any length of time.

Do you necessarily need to be especially wise to be a writer though? Or clever? Or even that knowledgeable? Isn’t it enough to be entertaining? For some people, perhaps, but not me. Does that make me a show off or a snob? I’d like to think not but I find myself rejecting stuff I write these days left, right and centre because it lacks, for want of a better word, profundity.


n. pl. pro·fun·di·ties

  1. Great depth.
  2. Depth of intellect, feeling, or meaning.
  3. Something profound or abstruse.

I’ve always viewed wisdom as a natural progression that begins with data, moves through information and knowledge, onto insight arriving at wisdom which philosopher Will Durant defined quite succinctly as “total perspective.” The trouble with our perspectives is that they tend to fall into two categories: objective and subjective—the inside of a ball cannot see what’s outside nor can the outside of a ball see what the inside is like. It’s an either/or thing.

Every writer faces this question at some point during their career: What impact does my writing have? What difference does it make anyway? Does what I say matter? I find myself coming up against these questions more and more these days. When I was, to use the term Gerald Murnane uses, a “secret writer” the only person my writing had to satisfy was me and me alone and, for the most part, it did just that. I wrote to work things out, things got worked out and the writing got stuck in the proverbial drawer or big red folder as the case may be. Now I’m a published writer. (Yay me.) Now there are people out there—not a lot I grant you—who have put their hands in their pockets, pulled out their credit cards, bought and read one or more of my books and I have to face the fact that there is a very good chance that the next book I write will follow the ones that have already appeared in print and there is something terribly off-putting about that.

Once a book becomes a product everything changes. Products get marketed. Products appeal to demographics. Demographics consist of people and those people come armed to the teeth with opinions and expectations. Bob Dylan had a huge fan base and then one day he—on a whim from all accounts—swaggered onto the stage at Newport with an electric guitar and didn’t do what his fans had come to expect of him and I suspect there are still one or two hardliners out there who still Jerry Lee Lewishave never quite forgiven him. Was that wise? Well it worked out okay in the long run but it might have ended his career. When Jerry Lee Lewis married his thirteen-year-old third cousin twice removed that didn’t exactly go down so well with his fans.

I don’t think being online as much as I’ve been over the last four or five years has been all that good for me as a writer. Okay I’ve met a bunch of nice people—hell, you’re probably one of them—sold a handful of books and I feel a bit more like a real writer these days even though I’m not exactly sure what that might be. But I’m also rubbing shoulders with people who have a very different idea about what it means to be a writer, people who are (or at least it seems as if they are) only interested in sales as if that’s the benchmark, that that somehow vindicates them: I’ve sold x number of books so I’ve arrived. When I was that secret writer I never really thought about what other writers did or were doing. I wrote my books, put them in that proverbial drawer I keep going on about and just got on with it. Now I’m surrounded by all these people who aren’t doing things my way, who aren’t writing books like mine, who aren’t writing for the same reason as me and they make me feel as if I’m doing it wrong. I’d thought that I was fairly secure within myself but I’m not quite so sure because it does get to me.

Wise men tend to be a bit on the isolationist side, antisocial bordering on misanthropic even. They secrete themselves away in caves and hermitages and people have to seek them out and beg audiences with them. That was me until a few years ago, going through the motions of being wise and hoping that actual wisdom might descend upon me somewhere along the line. Now I need to be social which goes against the grain. Is this perhaps because I imagine that if people spend too much time around me they might start to realise that I’m nowhere near as wise as they might have thought at first and that I’m really only a part-timer?

There wasn’t a great deal of mud-slinging when my first wife left me but one thing she did say to me in the heat of the moment in the midst of our living room was, “And do you know something else? You’re not deep. You’re shallow.” And that hurt. Let her slag off my performance in the bedroom by all means, my dress sense, my taste in music but not my intellect. Of course in many, many ways I am shallow although I prefer the term narrow-minded. I don’t have the broadest of tastes nor the widest of experiences and if all the TV channels started to broadcast nothing but science fiction programmes back to back night and day you’d get no complaints from me. I was in my early twenties when she left me. Of course I wasn’t deep. But it’s true that I didn’t just have a chip on my shoulder, I had a whole fish supper. I believed in my writing like at no other time and it’s probably just as well that I didn’t spend much time around other writers because they would have told me the God’s honest truth: You’re not very good, son. And neither I was but the potential was there.

There is something conceited about writing things down. You are making out that these things are worthy of being recorded permanently, that what you have to say is worth listening to and that it will benefit others to read them. Do I believe that about my writing? Actually, yes; yes I do. I think what I write matters and I don’t think I would have written any of it if it didn’t matter and even though I wasn’t that fussed about people reading I still liked it when people did. I liked that I had the power to affect people. That said I’m not very comfortable wielding any kind of power. I don’t like motorbikes. I don’t like guns. I don’t like politics. I like being in the backroom just getting on with things. I also like that every now and then I come out with something that might be construed as actual-factual bone fide wisdom.

I’m not much of a storyteller when push comes to shove. I can enjoy a good story but I’ve never really thought once I’ve read one: I wish I could write something like that. Because I don’t. I was asked recently why I wrote fiction and not essays. It’s a fair question and I thought about it for a while before answering it. The most obvious answer is that it never occurred to me and if I think about why it never occurred to me it’s because I don’t think I could pull it off. Writing an article for Wikipedia is one thing and I wrote a whole slew of them before I started blogging but they were all about what other people had thought, said and done. These kind of essays would be about what I thought and despite the hundreds of thousands of words that I’ve written in this blog, once I start to think about what I think it never takes me very long to say it. Look at any of my poems—pick three or four at random—and you’ll see that most of them have an aphoristic quality about them.

I am not a philosopher—let’s get that straight from the start—I am a poet. But philosophy interests me. The word "philosophy" comes from the Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophia), which literally means "love of wisdom" so perhaps I’m being too harsh on myself. Maybe I am a philosopher. One would hope we all are. Or at least aspire to be. Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language and when you read my poetry you’ll see that these are exactly the kind of topics that I tackle over and over again. An example:


A long time ago
someone bound me
to the pillar of reason.

It might even have been me:
I can't remember now.

But don't think me tamed
after all these years.

When was the last time
you looked at my eyes?

When was the last time
you really looked
at my eyes?

Even the finest chains rust in time.

6 August 1989

It’s probably not my finest poem but it does make one think. My first thought actually is: What the hell was I thinking when wrote that? You bind wild animals to posts not reasonable men. Reason is like a straightjacket though. Think about the falling downfilm with Michael Douglas, Falling Down. What happens when a reasonable man gets pushed too far? By 1989 I had been ‘reasonable’ for thirty years. The eyes, of course, are the windows of the soul. My body was still going through the motions of being good, being reasonable, but inside I was heading for a breakdown and a few short years afterwards it came.

Of course when it came I got packed off to see a psychologist for a bit of behavioural therapy. I’ve seen three over the years and they’ve always found me a bit of a challenge because of the degree of insight I showed as to what was wrong. I’m sure they coped better with overeaters, dipsomaniacs, self-harmers and drug addicts. But we always struggled. Writing is therapeutic. It is for me. Some mental health professionals recommend it and I would go along with them wholeheartedly. What gets produced might not be great literature but if it provides an individual with insight then it’s done its job. It can get tossed in the bin afterwards. What’s more important, the sum or the answer? They tell you at school to show your workings but, at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters in the answer. Unless you want to communicate your insights to another and that’s why I don’t toss my poems in the bin once I’m done with them because the kind of things that preoccupy me are the kinds of things that preoccupy most of us and I was taught never to be selfish:


There are so many types of truth.
Some are simply answers
others are good reasons.

There are excuses too,
sad, watered-down half-truths,
and, of course, platitudes and lies.

Some people refuse to count them.

The deepest truths are called meanings
which don't only answer,
they explain or excuse.

Then comes understanding
and finally insight:
the power to look within and

not be afraid of the dark.

31 August 1997

If you’ve had a look at my website recently you might have noticed that, at the top right of each page there is a quote. They’re all short quotes from my poems and stories. I had to keep them short because of the way the page is formatted and I know in some browsers they don’t look quite as perfect as they do on my machine but my HTML skills are limited. They’re just a few examples of the memorable ways I’ve found to say certain things. And a lot of the times that’s all that wisdom boils down to, a memorable way of saying something.

Robert Frost memorably said that “a poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” I wonder how many of us can tick those two boxes once we’ve put our pen down or hit CTRL-S?


Danish dog said...

I like the idea of a part-time wise man, Jim. The wise man knows he's not all that wise, and it's difficult to express wisdom diliberately. I find the wisest things are expressed organically without thought. Thought kills creativity and hence wisdom.

One of the problems with the Internet is that all too often one is thinking about too many things, and so one skates blithely on the surface, forgetting to forge deep into the mine of our being.

Being a poet doesn't mean you can't also be an essay writer. It's good to see you working on your ars poetica on your blog.

I agree about the search for a fan-base spoiling creativity. The best artists and writers never seek reknown merely for reknown itself. They are driven by the desire to further their art rather than win acclaim.

As a musician told me in Copenhagen recently: "One thing is working hard to be famous; another thing is when it's suddenly there: then you're fucked."

Elisabeth said...

Part-time wisdom sounds like a good notion to me, Jim. It allows for certain lapses in wisdom, the sort that might arise when we are temporarily overwhelmed by our emotions and need time out to be able to think more clearly.

This post reads to me like an essay - the sort you reckon you don't write, preferring poetry and the novel.

I enjoy these essays/posts of yours almost most of all because they shine a light on you, however brittle. You know me Jim, the autobiographical nut, the one who likes to find out about other people from themselves rather than second hand through someone else.

Thanks for a wise and generous post.

Jim Murdoch said...

I have been editing some of my short stories recently, Danish dog. These were all written twelve years ago and if there is one word I use more than anything else it’s the word ‘seems’. For a clever person—I was top of my class and have always excelled in every job I’ve done—I find it hard to state things definitively; I invariably leave room for doubt. I find that the Internet encourages us to doubt. Asking relevant questions is good but the thing about doubt is that, even when the shadow of doubt has been removed, somehow a stain remains. There are so many people out there telling others what to do. I’m not talking about bullies. I’m talking about sincere people who want to share what they know. It’s just there are so damn many that it’s hard to be sure of yourself after prolonged exposure to them. At the very least it’s distracting.

Of course poets can be essay writers and many have been. I’ve been practicing my art for forty years now and you would think after that length of time I’d be able to explain my craft better than I can. The thing is I never thought about needing to explain it until I started this blog. I never needed to. I’ve always been a little contemptuous of those poets who say, “It’s a poem because I say it is,” and yet, never having anyone to discuss poetics with, I struggle at times to say much more. Some musicians play be ear; I write poetry by ear. Writing comes naturally to me and I never saw any more need to explain how I wrote than I did to explain how I was a man.

I have been asking myself a question for a long time now: What’s the point to the Internet? It’s one of those meaning-of-life questions that doesn’t really have an answer but I do keep wondering why we’re all here. How many of us are real writers as opposed to those of us who are kidding ourselves. Some people confuse sales with success. Others, myself included, wonder if no sales (no sales of any consequence) means they’re failures. It does shake ones confidence. It makes experimenting harder. I can’t see the book I made a start on last year far enough at the moment. Thankfully I’m writing poetry—and poetry that’s pleasing me—so I’m not thinking about it. The poetry will always be just for me.

Jim Murdoch said...

I’m not saying that wise men can’t learn, Lis, but I have always viewed wisdom as pretty much the terminus of learning; once you’re a “wise old bird” you’ve nailed it. The world used to be so much smaller. A couple of hundred years ago you could be an expert on, say, cheese and never have tasted anything from anywhere further than you could walk to and back in a day. Now there is a whole world of experience out there and no one can live long enough to do more than taste most things and it’s very hard to become an expert on anything unless you’ve lived with it for a time. I’m certainly no expert when it comes to poetry and I rather wish I was. When I was five my best friend was a boy called Andrew—I name check him in Stranger than Fiction but his last name isn’t Danzig although it is similar-sounding—and Andrew is now a professor of mathematics at one of the UK’s top universities. It bothers me that I’m not. What bothers me more is that it looks like I’m never going to that clever even if I continue to study, which I plan to do, for the rest of my life … because I’m not retaining the damn stuff. I can fake it because I’m clever but little stays. Which is what I meant above when I was going on about cheese. I skim. I cram. I learn as much (or as little would be more accurate) as I need to to write my articles and then I’m onto my next subject without having properly digested the first load of research.

I have no problems talking about myself as long as I can do so and keep people’s interests. I have nothing against autobiographical writing as such and some people have lived the most interesting lives. I haven’t. Had I I’m sure I would remember more about it. It’s somewhat easier to talk about the present which is what I’m doing in this article. Everyone should be an expert in their now. Or at least knowledgeable. I value honesty. Honesty for me is all to do with intent. I am not especially interested in factual accuracy which is what some people mistakenly assume that truth is. I am interesting in opening up where that openness can help others. So I talk about things like how wise I am. There will be others out there who may well be wondering how wise they are too and if it matters.

Being around people online has made me wonder though and I am concerned about how wisely I’m spending my time. Weeks vanish like hours. It’s August. When the hell did it get to be August? I’m perpetually dissatisfied with my efficiency levels. But a part of that dissatisfaction comes from being around people who are churning out three or four books a year or even a poem a day. They exhaust me. In a few day’s time I’ll have been doing this for five years. Five years on is a good time to sit down and assess ones progress. But more of that in my next post.

Tim Love said...

I've never aimed for wisdom, even part-time, but I'm prepared to accept that I've put in enough hours (maybe the 10 years of experience or 50,000 chunks of information that musicians, chessplayers, etc are reputed to need) to have developed some "skills" (e.g. being able to dismiss a poem in 10 seconds; seeing that a poem uses a common template; being able to anticipate punchlines; being able to choose the best haystack before searching for the needle; knowing what part of a story/poem needs work). It's not wisdom because it's not reliably correct, but it took a while to acquire, and can compensate for slowing reflexes, lack of time to read, etc). And like wisdom, the results aren't always easy to justify rationally. Perhaps that's done elsewhere in the brain.

Jim Murdoch said...

So what you have, Tim, is expertise. I’ve been referred to as an expert many times in my life and the term always makes me cringe. I’ve never ever felt like an expert. I’ve often felt experienced and I suspect that experience often gets confused with expertise. Experts can speak with confidence. Experienced people have also earned the right to a degree of confidence but there’s often the shadow of doubt and the fear, at least there is with me, that someone cleverer will come along an go, “Er, no, that’s not quite right.” Luckily I don’t hold many strong opinions and even when I do I respect the opinions of others. Opinions aren’t generally a matter of right or wrong. They’re mostly about taste. I don’t care for long poems. That doesn’t mean long poems are all bad but, in my opinion, their length works against what poetry does at its best. I probably couldn't say when any poem fits a particular template unless it was a limerick or a haiku or was called ‘Sonnet for Such-and-such’. I am quite good at seeing punch lines coming in fact only last night my wife and I were watching the last episode of a series and sat there and told each other what was going to happen and it did so not big surprises but there was some fun to be had in being proved right; you get your kicks where you can.

I could live my life out quite happily and never claim to have attained wisdom but everyone has flashes of insight, sparks that really need to be contained and preserved. We owe it to others. My wife invented the term ‘decoder ring poem’ and I know two people who now use the term regularly apart from me. They would have been well aware of that kind of poem before but now they have a simple expression that encapsulates everything. All you have to do is watch two experts in any field prattle away to each other and it’s like a foreign language. When I meet fellow poets I am very careful not to show off (and I’m sorry to say there is that side to me) because I’m nowhere near as clever as I expect people think I am. I’ve tried before telling people but they always assume it’s false modesty. It’s not. It’s really not.

Danish dog said...

With regard to what we can use the Internet for, Jim, Ai Weiwei describes finding the Internet as the most important event in his life. See:

Jim Murdoch said...

I am probably romanticising the memory, Danish dog, which is why I steer well clear of autobiography, but my first memory of the Internet is sitting in my classroom—I was an IT teacher at the time—and typing the word ‘poetry’ in a search engine which I believe was Lycos there being no Google back then. This wall of contact information appeared before me and my first thought was: Home. It may not have been in my classroom. I might have been in my bedroom. The word ‘poetry’ might not have been the first think I typed into a search engine. But the feeling of coming home happened. Suddenly, after twenty-five years of being alone or as good as alone (I knew no other writers and hardly anyone I was friendly with even read that much) I had instant access to writers the whole world over 24/7. It was an amazing feeling which young writers will no doubt take for granted.

Some fifteen years on I still think it’s a incredible thing that I can exchange thoughts with, in this comment stream alone so far, three people from Denmark, Australia and England. I truly appreciate that. That’s the plus side. Being alone means you just get on with it. Or you don’t. I wrote those first two novels pre-Internet and they were just for me. There were no blogs when I wrote the next two and I really only used the Internet as a research tool. It’s only since I began this blog that I’ve made any real attempts to cultivate a virtual social life. I virtually never talk to anyone who’s not a writer these days. And that is wonderful. But, as I say in this article, there is a downside. Visibility takes effort and even pedalling water can wear one out. I think that’s where most of us are, doing as little as we can so people don’t forget us, so that they read our posts and maybe even buy our books. The Internet is not the platform for success for most of us that it clearly is for others, e.g. the likes of E.L. James and John Locke. Success is, as the article in the Herald says, “being in the right place at the right time” with, I’d like to add, the right product. I am not sure this is the right time for a writer like me. Yes, it is easy to get my work in print and maybe I wouldn’t have sold many more books had I been born even thirty years ago but I do think I would have been viewed differently. Warhol had the right idea when he envisioned a future where everyone would have the opportunity to be famous. But fifteen minutes? Fifteen seconds more like. Everyone is clamouring for attention. It’s wearisome. I’m forever stumbling across things that have been out for months or even years and I think to myself: How the hell didn’t I hear about that?

Danish dog said...

But who wants to be a superstar anyway? It must be awfully tiring. As long as we excel in our chosen field, then we should be happy. As for high book sales, well it's nice if it happens, but if it doesn't, it doesn't. It's certainly not the only measure of success. Just look at Thoreau, for example. Walden didn't exactly top the bestseller list.

Jim Murdoch said...

I couldn’t handle the attention, Danish dog, so there’s no way I’d want to write a bestseller. Luckily it doesn’t look as if I ever will.

Ken Armstrong said...

I think that first poem is great. I love the last line "Even the finest chains rust in time." but, of course, it needs the context of the rest of the poem to make it.

As always, you have written a searingly honest post here although I must confess some doubts that any of the other writers you refer to are really succeeding in making you feel that you are doing 'the writing thing' wrong. I thing, at this stage, you know you are doing it right - right for you - and that's all that counts.

Jim Murdoch said...

Do success and the appearance of success look that different, Ken? Success is relative, of course, and for most of us it comes in dribs and drabs. Just writing a novel is a success but then when does that novel become a “successful novel”? I’ve been looking back a bit of late. My next post is my five-year post. I never marked my first, second, third or fourth anniversaries but five years is a significant benchmark. After five years sufficient time has passed to allow one to reflect on progress made and to set achievable targets for the future. A lot has changed in the past five years. Who talked about ebooks five years ago? Now the publishing industry is in turmoil. No one knows if they’re coming or going.

For some people success is measured purely in sales. I follow a number of writers who get regular, albeit small, cheques from Amazon and Smashwords and I wonder how they’re managing it. What makes their books attractive enough that people are buying them on a regular basis? Blurbs are hard to write at the best of times but none of my stuff summaries well. The same goes for the covers. I think my covers look great now I have five (you’ll see the cover for Making Sense in the next post) but reduced to thumbnails I’m not sure they’re doing me any favours. I would be happy to pay someone for advice if I knew who I could trust. I’m not sure anyone knows really what they’re talking about when it comes to online marketing other than the basics which I’m doing anyway.

As far as my writing’s going I haven’t looked at what I’ve been calling my sixth novel for months. Since I stopped gulping down so much aspartame I have been writing more poetry and I’ve not been displeased with the results but no prose and no interest in writing any. If I could just work out what I feel passionate enough to spend two or three years with it running around my head 24/7 it would help. At the moment I don’t feel that way about anything. My routine is a bit numbing frankly. I’ve been editing stories for the last couple of weeks which is getting the wheels turning but I’m running on fumes. Carrie is more passionate about the stories than I am. I’m even finding reading a struggle at the moment. I’d take a holiday but I don’t know how.

So, bottom line, hand on heart, I don’t really know what I’m doing at the moment. Or, more importantly, what I should be doing. The clock is ticking and one can only justify hitting the snooze button so many times.

Kirk said...

Years ago I wrote an unproduced (so unproduced it exists only in longhand) screenplay called The Monster that, while comedic, tried to stay true to at least the spirit of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. In it I have Dr Frankenstein saying at the moment of creation, "I have the knowledge of God, the tools of God, the power of God!" The doctor's hunchback assistant askes, "What about the wisdom of God?" The doctor answers, "Knowledge, wisdom, same thing." Frankenstein's inability to tell the difference between the two is what the leads to his downfall (OK, so maybe the screenplay is tragicomedic).

Knowledge is a collection of facts. Wisdom is putting those facts, or just a single fact, to good use. Knowledge is memory, wisdom is judgement.

Not that I know anything. If I did, I'd be rich.

Jim Murdoch said...

I see a middle step, Kirk, that of understanding. To illustrate: a great number of people know Einstein’s famous formula that explains mass–energy equivalence; some will even know that the letters mean ‘Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared’ but very few will actually understand what that means. I had a friend once who explained it to me when he was about sixteen; he also, rather convincingly, explained why black was white. Even among those who do understand the formula even fewer will possess the skill set to utilise that knowledge. Wisdom, as you say, is taking that knowledge and using it to good effect. Not all uses of Einstein’s formula have been wise ones. There is also insight which is ‘intuitive understanding’ which still comes under the general umbrella of understanding.

Dave King said...

Your definition of wisdom is almost word for word what I would have written if asked for mine.

I'm with you again in the small matter of the web's influence. I, too, think it has been a mixed blessing for my writing. It has definitely made me more prolific, but of the quality issue, I'm not so sure.

I thoroughly enjoyed this post. There was something meaty - deep, profound, if you like, whatever your first wife may have said! - in almost every sentence.

Jim Murdoch said...

Oh, you have definitely become more prolific, Dave. It seems like a poem a day has become your standard and, as you say, that’s good in one way. I am sure that most of your poems could be improved if more time was afforded them. Here I’m assuming that you don’t revise the works after they’ve been first posted and commented on. So far I’ve never posted a poem that wasn’t finished. It’s a big deal for me to ensure that what’s produced is all my own work. I never even show Carrie poems in draft. If I’m not sure about a piece I sit on it. I’ve just finished a poem that, unusually for me, I’ve worked on every day and at length for about the last ten days and it has gone through an unprecedented number of revisions in that time. The first draft was okay—you got the idea—but this final version (it now has its number (#1071) and its place in the big red folder) is so much more polished and refined. That amount of work is commonplace with me when it comes to my prose but not the poetry. Mostly I don’t mind if it says ‘just a minute’, ‘just a second’ or ‘just a moment’ because we get the idea. This one needed more.

Carrie and I have just watched Click the BBC new technology programme which we make a point of doing at the weekend and one of the items this week was all about information overload which most people simply accept these days as part of everyday life; if it sticks it sticks. Everyone is in a rush and everything is done in a rush; when was the last time we relished anything? I think that’s what I enjoyed about writing this last poem, the time to live with it. I really didn’t want to be done with it too soon. I have my five-year post coming up on Tuesday and I’ve been doing a lot of serious thinking of late about the pros and cons of a life lived primarily online. It’s certainly not all bad but I so often feel as if I’m swimming against the tide. I may have flashes of wisdom every now and then but if there is one thing I am not it’s Internet-wise.

Rob Schneider said...

As a LinkedIn wanker (Australian slang - figure it out), I just announced my new post in the appropriate places in hopes of attracting a little traffic. Yours was just a few posts above mine, so I checked it out. Glad I did! - What a refreshing perspective on life and writing. I think I'll skip slipping a link in here and just say thanks.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for that, Rob. I have to admit to being a bit lost on Linked In—a bit like I was on Facebook for the first three years (really couldn’t get my head round what all the fuss was about)—but I suppose all will become clear in time. I stumbled across this thread though and try to remember to post an entry each week. Anyway I have a few Australian friends so welcome to the club.

Marion McCready said...

Hi Jim, a bit late to this post, I'd missed it somehow. Very enjoyable read and I very much like all of the poems. I've cut down on facebook time quite a lot and I've noticed many other people aren't posting as much either, my twitter account is pointless as I'm never on it. I'm thinking about investing more time on my blog, doing reviews etc.
Being out in the sticks it's easy to feel apart from the poetry community though I'm pretty happy with my small/managable network of online writer-friends. It's probably a blessing, I doubt it would do much good for my writing if I was busy attending poetry events in Gla and Edin every other week and spending too much time virtually networking isn't much different to doing exactly that. The main thing is to keep on reading and writing, and now with the schools back in I might just get a chance to do that :)

Jim Murdoch said...

You know, Marion, poets seem to come in two shades, the introverts like me who never pass under the door lintel if they can avoid it and then there’re the extroverts who can’t wait to get all togged up for the next poetry jam. I’m not saying that poets ought to be antisocial but I’ve never seen poetry itself as a social thing. Even in families when I’ve heard of groups sitting round the fire reading poetry to each other I’ve scratched my head; poetry was always something I read in private. I’ve met fellow writers socially—not many admittedly but one or two—and we’ve had a drink or a meal and I’m not saying we didn’t talk shop because we did but we never pulled out our moleskin notebooks and starting reciting at each other.

I know I’ve probably got it backwards and the sitting through the poetry reading is not the most important aspect of these events; it’s the chin-wagging before and after and that’s where an event like Weegie Wednesday is good because they devote a lot of time to, for want of a better word, networking. I went once, arrived early, parked myself at a table, only talked to those people who sat around the table with me and left as soon as I felt decency would permit me. It was a painful experience and I think the only social gathering I’ve been to since has been your book launch so that should let you know how fond of you I am.

Online networking is an odd beast. There are some people I’ve tried hard to get in with and I just can’t get anywhere. I had hoped that they would read my blog and think, Well he’s not your typical self-published author, but there are definitely cliques out there. I also think that most of us are maxed-out when it comes to friends. And by that I mean friends we have time for not this mockery of friendship that exists Internet-wide. In the real world most of us only have a handful of friends, if that, and the rest, even if we don’t call them it to their faces, are only acquaintances.

I’d probably find it easier online if I just stuck to the one thing. I jump in and out of lots of different ponds. It can get very tiring. At the moment my pet gripe are people who don’t respond to comments. I go on the hunt for new cliques to try to muscle my way into, leave… well, you know the kind of comments I leave and then nothing, bugger all, not even a “Thanks for dropping by.” Not to worry. Their loss.

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